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My players came across a ghost last session. On its turn, the ghost used its Horrifying Visage ability. Horrifying Visage states:

Each non-undead creature within 60 feet of the ghost that can see it must succeed on a DC 13 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened for 1 minute. If the save fails by 5 or more, the target also ages 1d4 × 10 years. A frightened target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the frightened condition on itself on a success.

One PC failed the saving throw by 5 or more (his save was 7 after all modifiers) and so was aged 10 years (I rolled a 1 on the d4).

The party mopped up the ghost pretty quickly thereafter, and everybody who failed the first save made the second. After the game, one of the other players commented that aged character was lucky to have made his second save, since he would've been aged again had he failed it so badly a second time.

Is this actually the case? If a character fails a repeat saving throw against Horrifying Visage by 5 or more, will they be aged just as if they had failed the initial saving throw by 5 or more?

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Yes, the ghost can continue to drain your life

Let's start with the spell mechanics (MM, 147):

The initial save is very clear in direction in that the target(s) must succeed a DC13 Wis save or be frightened for 1 minute. The next sentence is our key (emphasis mine):

If the save fails by 5 or more, the target also ages 1d4 X 10 years. A frightened creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns...

The text does not state "If the first save fails" but simply "If the save fails". If you fail the first time, you repeat the save and are therefore under the same rules and risk for aging.

There are many spells/abilities that state "The first time", but Horrifying Visage is not one of them and therefore the risk of failures by 5 or more for aging remain.

And it's a cool effect!

Most importantly is the narrative behind the effect. You have encountered a horrifying creature and if you are completely enthralled by it from failures by 5 or more, the creature is still horrifying. Remaining under it's power after failing again by more than 5 forces you to keep aging because that's a reasonable and cool effect. Think of all the movies where a ghost ages someone to death; that's what is happening here.

Simply put, ghosts are horrifyingly scary

For those so inclined, Jeremy Crawford also agrees.

Horrifying Visage ages you every time you fail a save against it by 5 or more.

However, you do not HAVE to try and save again

The language clearly states (emphasis mine):

A frightened creature can repeat the saving throw

They do not have to repeat the saving throw and can instead simply remain Frightened and not risk further aging.

However - beware of metagaming! If your character wouldn't know to not try and shake off their fear, then they probably should still try.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I do want to add that I think the text is unclear and either ruling would be fine. However, I think the risk of continued aging is a great mechanic and makes the encounter more interesting. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 22 '17 at 13:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @guildsbounty All of those effects (with a failure by greater than X) are mostly for paralysis which require another creature to revive you. I couldn't find an example where you were still conscious with a secondary effect. The frightened is the first effect with the result of being very frightened (failures greater than 5) resulting in aging. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 22 '17 at 14:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Crap...I'm wrong. Just checked Sage Advice. I'm going to delete my answer, and give you this to supplement yours: twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/688435938259681280 \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Aug 22 '17 at 14:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to put some emphasis on the can: "A frightened create can repeat the saving throw". Does that mean that you can choose not to repeat it, therefore staying frightened, but not under the risk of aging again? \$\endgroup\$ – Henrik Ilgen Aug 22 '17 at 16:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HenrikIlgen I've changed my mind and think you are correct. I will update my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 22 '17 at 17:44
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No, the second failure cannot make you age again.

As is always the case, spells do precisely what they say they do, no more--no less.

In this case, Frightening Visage specifies that on your first failure, if you fail by 5 or more, you age 1d4x10 years.

It then goes on to say that you can repeat your save at the end of your turn to get rid of the frightened condition. If badly failing this save could cause you to age again, it would explicitly say so.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It doesn't say "on your first failure", it says "If the save fails by 5 or more...". And since you are repeating "the save", would that imply that the repeat saves have the same consequences as the first, except where noted, rather than having no effect at all except where noted? \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Aug 22 '17 at 13:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ The initial save and follow-up saves are always treated as discrete things with no overlap between them. For example, a Quasit's Claws attack calls for a Constitution save or you take poison damage and become poisoned. The follow-up save at the end of each turn lets you get rid of the poisoned condition...but you do not take extra damage if you fail the save. As an extra example, the Medusa has a penalty applied if you fail a follow-up save...and that penalty is explicitly laid out. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Aug 22 '17 at 13:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Word of Crawford disagrees. \$\endgroup\$ – Shem Aug 22 '17 at 16:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Shem If you look at my comment in the post above, I'm the one who found the Crawford quote in the first place, and acknowledged this and volunteered to delete my answer. The other answerer recommended I leave it in place as an 'alternate interpretation.' So I did. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Aug 23 '17 at 13:31

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